Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)



First Advisor

Raymond DiGiuseppe

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Nevid

Third Advisor

Wilson McDermut


Emerging adulthood is a developmental period from 18 to 29 years of age associated with elevated levels of suicidal thoughts and planning, and suicide risk. The present study examined whether cognitive inflexibility interacts with high levels of emotion reactivity (i.e., A tendency to experience strong negative affect in response to stress) and brooding (i.e., A repetitive form of emotion driven thinking associated with depressive symptoms) to predict suicidal ideation via a relation mediated by avoidant problem-solving (i.e., A problem-solving style characterized by avoiding aspects of a social problem including negative emotions). It also examined whether cognitive inflexibility interacts with low levels of emotion reactivity and reflection (i.e., A repetitive form of problem-oriented thinking focused on resolving depressive symptoms) to predict suicidal ideation via a relation mediated by planful problem-solving at low levels of cognitive inflexibility, and impulsive problem-solving at high levels of cognitive inflexibility.

A racially/ethnically diverse sample of emerging adult college undergraduate students (N = 162; 75% female), ages 18 to 29 (M = 19.36, SD = 1.61) were recruited from an urban private university in New York City, via an online psychology department participant recruitment system. During in-person appointments, participants completed the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Beck Hopelessness Scale, the Ruminative Response Scale, the Social Problem-Solving Inventory Revised (short version), the Emotion Reactivity Scale, and the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire – Revised. Participants were assessed for suicide risk, debriefed, and compensated with their choice of 10 dollars or 1 credit toward research participation.

Path analyses conducted using the lavaan package for R tested four progressive models, the fourth of which modeled study hypotheses. Study hypotheses were mostly unsupported, and all path models were poor fits to the data. Thus, the results should be interpreted with caution. Brooding significantly predicted avoidant problem-solving and reflection significantly predicted planful problem-solving after controlling for depressive symptoms and hopelessness.

These findings, and prior research, suggest reflection might be less deleterious than brooding. It may be best to discourage rumination among patients, but if it is unavoidable, then reflection that is structured to be planful may be less harmful than brooding.